Zags’ heart of lineup eliminates Griffs from NCAA Tournament

McKenna-2

Mark McKenna went 4-for-4 in the 8-2 loss that saw the Griffs’ season end on Saturday. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

MINNEAPOLIS — A trio of two-run innings helped propel Gonzaga further into the NCAA Tournament as the Bulldogs eliminated Canisius from the Minneapolis Regional with an 8-2 victory at Siebert Field on Saturday afternoon.

The game was delayed for two hours due to consistent rain in the Minneapolis metro area throughout the late morning and early afternoon.

As the game was getting further delayed, players from both Canisius and Gonzaga decided to proceed and have some fun. Canisius relief pitcher Carson Perkins had a dance-off with one of the Gonzaga players, including some dance moves that come from a vastly popular video game as of late, Fortnite.

They also had their own version of six-pin bowling, which included baseballs as the bowling ball and Powerade cups as the pins. Ryan Stekl won the contest, knocking down four cups to earn the victory.

Once the field was deemed okay to play on, Gonzaga came out of the gates seeking revenge from their heartbreaking loss to UCLA on Friday afternoon.

The Bulldogs lost their opening game of the regional by allowing four runs in the ninth inning to the second-seeded Bruins.

Stekl drove home the Griffs’first run of the game in the bottom half of the first inning, cutting the deficit in half.

With the RBI, Stekl finished second in Canisius program history for RBI in a career, one shy of tying Kevin Mahoney who played for the Griffs from 2006-09.

Gonzaga would add two more runs in the third inning to give the Bulldogs a three-run lead, 4-1.

The Griffs once again would counter the two-run inning by the fellow Jesuit school in the bottom-half of the inning with an RBI single up the middle off the bat Liam Wilson that aided Mark McKenna to cross home plate.

McKenna had four of the Griffs’seven hits in the loss, going 4-for-4. The four hits tied a season and career-high for the junior outfielder from Grand Island, N.Y.

The final four runs of the game would be scored by Gonzaga, two of them coming in the fourth inning before insurance markers in the fifth and eight innings would be tacked on.

Andrew Sipowicz earned the start for the Griffs, going 3 2/3 innings, allowing nine hits and six runs. Jared Kennedy, Carson Perkins and Tyler Smith each saw action out of the bullpen in the loss.

Gonzaga had 17 hits in the victory, the most allowed by Canisius this season. Of the 17 hits by the Bulldogs, 10 of them came from the No. 3-6 hitters, as the heart of their lineup batted .556 (10-for-18). They also drove in six of the Bulldogs’ eight runs.

Canisius is still looking for their first win in the NCAA Tournament. They are now currently 0-6 in their three appearances, all of which have come over the last six years.

Despite the pair of losses in Minneapolis, the Griffs did have their seventh consecutive year with at least 30 wins and their 12th consecutive MAAC Tournament appearance.

Head coach Matt Mazurek made sure that what the team did this year, especially with 12 seniors, was a feeling that was very hard to put into words.

“I’m so proud of the players, especially the 12 seniors on this team,” Mazurek said following the game.“We set out on a mission at the beginning of the year to reach this point. We knew we were deserving and had the talent to get here.

“We put that into action and we earned our opportunity here. We didn’t quite get over the hump and get to the next chapter of Canisius baseball but the pride I have to these 12 seniors that are leaving the program is indescribable.”

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